"The deer tick that transmits Lyme disease is present throughout the Northeastern United States, including Western New York and Niagara County," Niagara County Department of Health Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said Monday.
Lyme disease is caused when an infected tick bites the skin and stays attached long enough (typically more than 48 hours) to inject bacteria into the bloodstream. The longer an infected tick stays attached, the more likely it will transmit Lyme disease. Typical signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include a circular "bulls-eye" skin rash, headache, fever, muscle pain and fatigue.
Should one experience any of the aforementioned symptoms up to 30 days after a tick bite, Stapleton said one should be sure to contact their primary doctor. Lyme disease is easily treated and cured with antibiotics in the early stages, but, if left untreated, can result in serious complications, involving joints, immune system, nervous system, heart and other organs.
The Niagara County Department of Health conducts field surveillance by dragging for ticks. This technique involves pulling a piece of white fabric through bushy areas and brush frequented by deer, rodents and birds. Environmental health workers, dressed in protective clothing and gloves, pick the ticks off the fabric and place them in collection containers. Ticks collected by the staff are submitted to the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Laboratory for verification and testing.
Environmental health Director Paul Dicky stated, "Samples collected in Niagara County are consistent with infection rates across Western New York. Approximately 50 percent of samples are positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease."
Dicky said his division is only testing ticks found through field surveillance and is not accepting ticks from medical providers or the public for testing.
It is possible to encounter ticks until snowfall. Both human and animal are at risk for tick bites.
"The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to take actions to protect yourself from getting bit by ticks," Stapleton emphasized. "People can protect themselves with several key steps. When in wooded and grassy areas, wear clothing that covers all skin and is light-colored to see ticks better. Tuck shirts in pants and pants in socks. Use recommended repellents (DEET) and follow label directions. Afterward, check the body carefully for ticks. Remove any ticks by grasping the mouthparts with tweezers as close to the skin as possible, and disinfect skin by showering or bathing. Contact your doctor for guidance."
Niagara County Legislator and Board of Health member Richard Andres added, "It is important that we educate the public on what they can do to protect themselves and their families."
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding tick exposure and Lyme disease risks, contact the Niagara County Department of Health, division of environmental health, at 716-439-7444.